Tower Hamlets Watch

Poplar Harcas Resident Engagement Strategy Part 1.

December 18, 2010
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Poplar Harca have got into the idea of blogging and have finally understood that blogging can be a fantastic tool for those of us who are internet savvy. Sources within Poplar Harca tell me that this is now officially part of their consultation doctrine, in that they can now claim to have publisiced their intentions and let you comment on them. Heres yesterdays news from Poplar Harca:

Poplar Blog
17 December 2010
We want to remind everyone that the Poplar residents’ blog is still active and wants to hear from you!

We want to remind everyone that the Poplar residents’ blog is still active and wants to hear from you! Go to www.poplarblog.co.uk to see what your neighbours are talking about.

Members of the Bromley by Bow Community Organisation (BBBCO) set up the blog to get local residents talking and interacting with one another.

Poplar Blog is a resident run blog and designed to be a community hub where you can find information on services around Poplar, share and discuss ideas as well as the opportunity to network. The site enables you to write and submit your own blogs as well as comment on what others are blogging.

Writing your own blog is not all – there’s so much more you can do

· Enter competitions
· Read the latest news and events around Poplar
· Upload your photos and videos
· Meet and make new friends
· Report it – ASB or Complaints
· Find yourself a job
· Pets corner
· Your Shout/Lead your own campaign
· Votes/polls and much more!

So get blogging http://www.poplarblog.co.uk
http://www.poplarharca.co.uk/News/PoplarBlog

They even make your introduction to blogging about issues that effect you in Poplar, by giving you a page to ease your discomfort “Get Involved” that tells you to register. “But where for gods sake?” Unless I’m a complete durbrain and dont understand the search facilities, then where is the register button?

Using zee powers of zee interwebz I cleverly concocted zee cunningz plan, if youz type “register site:poplarblog.co.uk” into zee googlez boxes, zis will surely find zee register buttonz?

Godammitz

They even have a fantastic up to date snazzy twitter page that is updated every, erm…every half hour, erm day, erm week, erm year?, erm only once….Goddamitz

It seems I’ve been told that you have to apply to the Bromley By Bow Centre or Poplar Harca to apply for registration, taking your name, address, and a friendly home visit from zee gestapo before being stripped searched, anally probed, implanted, marked and branded before being allowed to blog on the site. Even then, it has to pass stringent Corporate guidance policies that basically mean you have to be an employee, or actually be recieving some kind of renumeration/charitable donations in some way from Poplar Harca and therefore follow company policy before being allowed to blog.

Hurrah for free speech……….


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Tower Hamlets Homes Residents Involvement Strategy??

December 14, 2010
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Upon perusing the Tower Hamlets Homes website today I was finally glad to see that THH had found it possible to at last consider creating a true Resident Involvement Strategy.

Link on THH website to Resident Influence

Clicking on that little blue link over at THH’s website brings you the following document;

Resident Influence at Tower Hamlets Homes

Which tells you that at the most recent meeting of the Tower Hamlets Homes Board on the 12th October, that board members discussed the findings in a document called “On Being Resident Led”.
This report carried out by Campbell Tickell and funded by Tower Hamlets Homes at a cost of around £3,500 pounds, with funds from the public purse, is about the need for resident involvement.

The problem is, is that Tower Hamlets Homes are refusing to release the contents of this publicly funded report into resident involvement. Its so secret that they have done their utmost to conceal not only the contents of this report, but also any minuted discussion of the report itself. The meeting on the 12th October 2010 is not even listed as a meeting of the board on its publicly available page on Tower Hamlets Homes website dedicated to meetings of the board.

What seems even stranger is that there were two meeting either side of this meeting of the 12th October 2010, these were held on Wednesday, September 29th 2010 at the Toby Club, Vawdrey Close, E1 4UA and also Tuesday, November 9th 2010 at Keddleston Community Centre, Hollybush Gardens, Bethnal Green, London E2 9RP, yet the agenda for the November Meeting does not even list the previous October 12th Meeting. In fact they list the minutes of the September meeting for confirmation in Agenda Item 4.

Why so secretive?, what does this report highlight?

Sources within Tower Hamlets Homes confirm to me that their definitely was a meeting of the Board, as highlighted in the report “Resident Influence At Tower Hamlets Homes”, but cannot tell me anything regarding the report itself, or release it, or even give me the minutes of the October 12th Meeting of the Board.

It gets even murkier, Paul Allen Head of Engagement who was at a meeting of the Residents Panel on the 21st October 2010, where this paper was finally discussed, was extremely reluctant to release copies of this paper at that meeting. In fact in the minutes of that meeting, panel members addressed the problem of being invited to a meeting to discuss the findings of this secretive paper “On Being Resident Led” without having previously been sent copies of the paper.

2.7 The Chair and other panel members expressed
their concerns regarding the way that documents
were being presented to the resident’s panel in
that they did not get enough information; no
involvement in decisions were ever brought to
the meetings and many items they are asked to
look at always comes to the panel too late to be
able to have any influence or input.
– Minutes of a meeting of the Tower Hamlets Homes
Resident Panel 21st October 2010

So where is this document? A document that discuses and apparently puts forward a Housing Association in the Borough (“well I suppose that counts out Poplar Harca) as a model of resident involvement, and as the title of the report suggests “Being resident led”, where is it?
A document that THH refuse to release, paid for by your taxes, that was first talked about at board meeting that has now been deleted from all but one record, that was not even produced to a special meeting of the residents panel before being asked to discuss and vote on its findings, that has had very little public scrutiny, all supposed to be about the benefits of resident involvement.

What a joke..


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Cllr Oliur Rahman spills the beans on Members Enquiries

December 9, 2010
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Last night the meeting of full Council at the Town Hall in Mullberry Place was an absolute farce. After watching the protesters try to barge their way in and get detained, I found scenes on the actual chamber floor more disturbing than the scenes of desperation outside.

I understand that their were some really serious points regarding the austerity measures that our councillors all seem to want to stand by, no matter how they phrase their denials, as well as numerous other serious issues, but I also know their are far greater writers than me who were there who will report those actions in greater detail. What I did find appalling though was the following. This is all about the issue surrounding confidentiality of members enquiries. Heres the councils official statement on members enquiries:

4. CONFIDENTIALITY OF MEMBERS’ ENQUIRIES
4.1 Confidentiality and trust is central to an effective Members’ Enquiries process and the Council’s Constitution includes a Member/Officer Protocol which sets out the key requirements in this regard.
4.2 This message has been reinforced in the guidance that has been distributed to ensure that responses to Members’ Enquiries are timely and of high quality, but that answers should be sent only to the Member who made the enquiry and to anyone they have specifically asked to be copied in. Members Enquiries and/or responses should not be copied on to other Members for information at officers’ instigation, but only at the enquiring Member’s specific request.
– pg 33 Agenda Item 8.1 O&S meeting October 2008

Quite clear and precise, well read on..

At last nights council meeting Cllr Bill Turner posed a serious question to Cllr Oliur Rahman regarding his sanctioning of the privatization of Disabled Childrens Services: at the recent meeting of the Cabinet on the 1st December.

8.11 Question from Councillor Bill Turner to the Cabinet Member for Children’s Services, Councillor Oliur Rahman

“Can the Cabinet Member tell me what steps he has taken to ensure that families, quality of service and local providers are not adversely affected by changes to the Personal Care Contract for disabled children in the Borough in light of the decision to transfer the contract away from local service providers with their roots in Tower Hamlets to multinational private companies?”
– page 49 Agenda Item 8: 8 December Full Council Meeting

Cllr Turner started of the question by stating:

“In your many political incarnations I have never seen you as as constant supporter of privatisation, but lets see how you do with this question”

A quick background on this statement regarding Cllr Rahman who used to be chair of the Public Service Union PCS which campaigns against privatising public services. Here are two past quotes;

Oliur Rahman, chair of the PCS civil service union in east London, said privateers are ‘completely useless’ at running public services.
http://www.wrp.org.uk/news/2877

“The private market will never provide the housing working people and our children in Tower Hamlets need”Cllr Oliur Rahman Tower Hamlets Leaseholders Association

Anyway heres Cllr Rahmans damning response to Cllr Turners question:

“Thankyou..uh..Cllr Turners..uh.. for your questions,..uh.. this is a very important questions, and.uh..a very important issue..uh.. The issue ..uh..of sitting on this bench and with the mayor we take this very seriously. Uh..we..uh…In 2008….and, and I know you have done a members enquiry so you will probably have some of that information already..um..uh…I’m a do….I’m a do”

Someone shouted that

“members enquiries are confidential”.

Cllr Rahman then actually hung himself by claiming that members enquires are “not confidential”.

Chaos then erupted at hearing this, with shouts of

“of course they are you idiot”

Lutfur Rahman by this time had sunk his head in his hands, while Cllr Rahman who had realised what he had revealed and the huge mistake he’d made by revealing this, was trying to calm everyone down by shouting “let me answer the question”

He went on to say that in 2008 that the council had carried out a consultation of users of this service (please read this report it states that out of 107 users they consulted only 14 severely disabled children). That the council is committed to local service providers and values their contribution.

Cllr Rahman then hastily tried to retract his statement by repeating numerous times:

“Just for the record cllr Turner I did not say I had seen a copy of your members enquiry”

Cllr Turner ignored this and went on:

“I would just like to point out that in fact, Mr Rahman did let slip that he had seen a copy of my members enquiry”

He then went on to ask the CEO Kevan Collins on a point of order to confirm to members that Members Enquiries are confidential, and to launch an investigation into how Cllr Rahman obtained a copy of his own Members Enquiry.

Cllr Peter Golds then launched into his own point of order, regarding one of his own Members Enquiries. Stating that “today he had a meeting with the Chief executive and the head of legal services” regarding his Members Enquiry which had been handed to a member of the public. He also called for an investigation to be launched into Cllr Rahman, and his illicit handling of another members enquiry, and whether Members Enquiries should remain confidential. He also urged members that he had talked to MP Jim Fitzpatrick the night before prompting him to ask if his own enquiries were confidential as his.

Cllr Golds upon creating a Members enquiry about the company MediaLinks, found that his members enquiry had been leaked to the company itself. Apparently the Managing Director had telephoned Cllr Golds and threatened him with legal action for putting the members enquiry in, which then forced Cllr Golds to meet with the Chief Executive & Isabella Freeman to check the legalities of the question he’d asked. They replied that he had every right to ask a question like that.

Although I do not have a copy of Cllr Golds or Cllr Turners members enquiries, Ted Jeory has done an excellent expose of the response from Cllr Golds Members Enquiry regarding MediaLinks involvement with the Council.

Kevan Collins stated that the councils policy on Members Enquiries are quite clear, that they are confidential to the Members and also to a member of the public if they urged the members enquiry in the first place. He added that he would investigate the matter and report back to this council with the results of his findings.

Cllr Golds then urged a procedural motion on calling for the Overview & Scrutiny Committe should look into the matter, including the confidentiality of such enquiries. This was seconded and passed by members.

Sources within the council tell me that some within Members support services are trying to backpedal as to what really happened. They now claim that the real version went something like this. That Cllr Rahmans statement was quite simply that he knew that “Cllr Turner put in members enquiries” and that other members had tried to turn this around and make it look like Cllr Rahman had said something quite different.

Believing this propaganda would have you believe that Cllr Rahman innocently remarked on a common observation about Members enquiries, thats like saying i know cars have wheels. What Cllr Rahman said was far more sinister and showed a real insight into the real inner workings of the Rahman Cabinet. Where nothing is sacrosanct, members enquiries are handed out to anyone who may wish to see them. This all may seem trivial to some, but as I’m discovering myself, these type of enquiries should be confidential, otherwise interested parties could provide pressure on the person making the request. Remember also that huge numbers of the public lobby their elected councillors to provide them with a members enquiry. This is much faster than the Freedom Of Information request service that councils must provide and has the added benefit that this comes from and elected representative that can chase the matter up for you. You can ask your councillors anything within reason, and if people start to realise that others may see your enquiry or who you are, how would this affect your ability to freely make these requests. Remember far dodgier sections of society and corporations may not stop at making threats of legal action.

Cllr Scumbag Rahman should be de-frocked or whatever you call it, deselected, tarred and feathered, pilloried through the streets, whatever. This type of abuse of authority at such a level eats right at the heart of a free and democratic society. This should be front-page news, splashed all over the place, but sadly this will probably get brushed away like every other scandal.


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Seperated At Birth?………

December 9, 2010
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Two images of Monty Burns & Lutfur Rahman

The resemblance is striking.

Muhahaha……


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Poplar Harca, Bellway Homes, Urban Living & Disregarding Public Health

December 7, 2010
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This post should go out as a warning as to what can happen when a councils planning department, environment health department, building control and corporate interests show a flagrant disregard for the law, and potentially put residents lives at risk. What I’m about to tell you, should, I hope, shock you into action yourselves into looking more closely at planning applications going through our councils planning department.

As one of the pre-conditions for some development planning applications a contaminated land study is usually demanded by the council to inspect the site, evaluate any hazardous materials found in soil or water, and then propose remediation measures for removal or mitigation of the effects to human health of these materials. These Contaminated land studies, as far as I can tell, are required and have to be carried out before any development can actually go ahead. The remediation that the developers study proposes must be approved by the councils Environmental Health Officers, and then again by the Planning Team before even a shovel can be taken to the start of the development. This requirement (i suppose) is to mitigate the effects on the surrounding environment and ultimately the effect on residents surrounding the site, and including those future residents of the site itself, not forgetting the workers on the development.

Recently while researching another topic of pre-conditional proceedures I’ve just discovered some disturbing information regarding one of Poplar Harca’s new build construction of Affordable Homes at their Charlesworth Terrace site. Which lies in Farrance Street E14 behind the old Langdon Park Annexe in Lansbury West. Poplar Harca joined forces with Bellway Homes to form a new partnership called Urban Living, which was set up to develop and provide affordable homes in the Poplar Area for local people. HCA advert on Charlesworth TerraceThis site was funded by huge amounts of tax-payers money from the Homes & Communities Agency without any real financial risk to either Poplar Harca or Bellway Homes, you would think that they would abide by any simple rules laid out for them.

As part of its new build strategy, a proposal was put forward to develop a piece of land behind Charlesworth Terrace in E14 for 7 homes for Social Rent – Planning Application No:- PA/09/00050. This land that was once a green used by children was taken over a few years ago as part of regenerating the estate. It was promised to be returned to residents but never was. Before Development Charlesworth Terrace SiteThis development is twinned with another development at Shepard House in Annabel Close E14, so that between the 2 the Affordable Homes target of minimum 35% for both developments may pass.

On reading the descision notice for the Charlesworth Terrace development you will notice a set of 5 conditions that must be adhered to for this development to be deemed acceptable by the council.

Condition 4 of this particular development is a requirement by the partners of the development to carry out a detailed contaminated land study of the proposed site, checking to see if there are any hazardous materials present in the soil or water. The partners are then required to provide both their findings and more importantly their proposed remedial solutions to remove, contain or mitigate the potential contaminated materials. The findings of this study are then examined by one of the councils own environmental health officers who studies the findings and approves or rejects the proposed remedial solutions put forward by the submitters of the report, in this case Poplar Harcas Urban Living Partnership.

“4. Development of the site shall not begin until a contaminated land study has been submitted to the local planning authority for written approval. The study will identifiy the extent of the contamination and the measures to be taken to avoid risk to the public when the site is developed. Details of this study should include.

  • A desk study report documenting the history of the site
  • A site investigation report to investigate and identify contamination
  • A risk assessment of the site
  • Proposals for any necessary remedial works to contain, treat or remove any contamination

Occupation of the site and development shall not commence until the measures approved in the study have been implemented

Reason The development proposed for this site should not expose future users of occupiers of the site any buildings and services or the wider environment to risks associated with the contaminents present. This condition should ensure that the contaminated land is properly treated and made safe before development to protect public health and to meet the requirements of the following policy in the London Borough of Tower Hamlets Unitary Development Plan (adopted December 1998) Dev51 Contaminated Land.”

As you can see from the above condition it quite clearly states in its first sentence that

“Development of the site shall not begin until a contaminated land study has been submitted to the local planning authority for written approval.”

and then again:

“Occupation of the site and development shall not commence until the measures approved in the study have been implemented”

The instructions could not be more explicit, basically no development can take place until the report, its findings and the proposed solutions to dealing with any contamination are approved by the council. This is so that the council can analyse the findings themselves and get the chance to recommend any alterations to the remedial solutions to dealing with any found contamination.

“9.1 Conclusions

………..

The intrusive investigation has identified generally elevated metal (arsenic, nickel and lead) concentrations through out the made ground across the site at levels that are likely to present a significant risk to human health.

………..” – Page 18 – ENVIRONMENTAL SITE INVESTIGATION REPORT; REC Report 506661/Report 2.1 May 2008

Even though remedial solutions put forward by the Environmental Site Report (Contaminated Land Study) offered a proposed solution to mitigate the effects of the contamimation, these remedies could not be carried out until the council had authorised not only the report itself, but had clarified, confirmed and ultimatly sanctioned these solutions.

As part of the planning conditions, a submission by Poplar Harca’s partnership with Bellway Homes – Urban Living was made to the council on the 17 January 2010 for an “Approval Of Details” for the Submission of details pursuant to condition 4 (contaminated land study) of planning permission dated 17th June 2009, reference PA/09/00050.
Location: Charlesworth House, Dod Street, London
Application No: PA/10/00149
This was basically to ask permission for the council to allow them to build.

On 17th September 2010, the council’s environmental health officer (Mr Felix Oku) had urged the council’s planning officers to reject the remedial solutions put forward in the study. In that response the councils planning officers (Benson Olaseni) took the advice of Environmental Health Officers warning seriously enough and duly rejected the proposed remedial solutions and the report itself in a letter to Mr Klimmeck (Urban Livings Architect) on the 17th September 2010.

The thing is though that Poplar Harca, Bellway Homes or their partnership company Urban Living seemed to have taken no notice of the pre-condition of the approval of planning. Charlesworth site showing 3 floors allready builtInstead of waiting for the return of the report, they ploughed ahead and started building on site, significantly risking the healths of those around the site. As you can see the building by September was already 3 stories high. Residents have reported increased levels of dust in gardens, living rooms and even kitchens. One even reported this to an (Environmental Health Officer), reporting that a child had been covered in the dust playing in the garden and had been putting a hand covered in the material in their mouths asking if there was anything to be afraid of.
The Officer stated that he could not confirm that there was anything to worry about.
2nd Picture of Charlesworth Terrace Site

On talking to Felix Oku myself regarding the matter, he could not believe that the building had gone ahead without waiting for the approval of the planning department, his advice was explicit. That it should not start until a the council’s own remediation measures had been considered themselves.

Artists Impression Of the Charlesworth Terrace Site
– Artists Impression of the Site

What gets me is that no one in Tower Hamlets seems to know how to respond to the question who should be enforcing a breach of these conditions. Environmental Health told me today that its Building Controls Job, Building Control then told me that it was Environmental Healths job, before finally sending me to Planning again. A planning enforcement officer finally told me that these breaches of planning conditions with regards to Contaminated land studies are going on all of the time. Larger building sites just plough through without waiting for consent to build. Nothing is ever really enforced, no buildings are ever torn down, and they have no real power to enforce any real breaches of conditions. This Charelsworth terrace site breach of conditions was first reported in the 25th October and has its own case id (enf/10/00563 – 25th October 2010), and yet to this date, no investigation has even been started.

Who’s really at fault here, is it Poplar Harca?, Bellway Homes?, the planning office, environmental health, building control? who?. The planning enforcement officer also tells me that once a contaminated land study has been given approval, that environment health officers job then is to keep visiting the site to ensure the accepted remediation measures are carried out.

Go look at the site, by September 2010 the wooden frame was already up 3 stories high, all thats needed now is the cladding, as is the way with all wooden framed buildings. The point is Poplar Harca & Bellway Homes decided not to wait for council approval and steamrollered ahead.

So is the Planning Enforcement Officer right? Are there large numbers of development sites in the borough going ahead and risking the health of all existing as well as future tenants of Tower Hamlets. Under Section 78R of the Environmental Health Act 1990, local authorities are required by law to make available a public register of contaminated land in their area. Other boroughs maintain a public register of contaminated land that should be publicly accessible between opening hours. I get the impression that this is freely available to peruse at your leisure, and although Tower Hamlets hints at the fact that their is a public register complying with the law, they actually charge for the purpose of looking at this publicly available register;

“We charge £65.50 to cover the cost of staff time spent searching records and preparing the response. We aim to respond to your enquiry within 10 working days. We search our records for information about contamination of the site and for past uses that may have involved contaminative processes.” – Tower Hamlets Contaminated Land Enquiries. When pointing out this curious fact about it being publically available, an environmental health officer told me that “actually its now £73 pounds to search the public register” and that if I as a concerned resident wanted to look at the public register without paying, detailing the contaminated land sites in the borough wanting to request a viewing that i should “put in a freedom of information request.

Does anyone else see anything wrong here????


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Lutfur Rahman upsets the residents of Robin Hood Gardens

December 1, 2010
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Our illustrious Mayor Lutfur Rahman turned up at Poplar Mosque & Community Centre Woolmore Street E14 on the Robin Hood Gardens Estate, on Saturday, Sunday & also Monday evening for over 2 hours. This mosque which is striving for larger facilities as part of the Blackwall Reach Regeneration Project has no entrance for women and obviously as a mosque is for worshipers of Islam.

The thing is this was (residents tell me) the Mayors first and only visit to the estate which is now under threat from demolition. Apparently residents and the Tenants Association have been lobbying the mayor for a meeting with them, they say that he has cancelled two meetings with elected members, but then decides to call a meeting with the mosque committee which is closed to residents. Residents also tell me that on Sunday Night they felt a promise was made that the Mayor would answer peoples questions and allay their fears about their future when he was due to turn up on Monday Night.

On Monday Night he turned up with his deputy Ohid Ahmed, Aman Dalvi the councils Corporate Director Of Regeneration and an entourage of other people at 6pm, staying for over 2 hours. Aman Dalvi has been deeply involved with the regeneration of the estate even before he came to work for Tower Hamlets, and accompanying the mayor, residents feel this would have been the perfect opportunity to answer questions. Apparently once the meeting was over with the mosque committee, Lutfur gave a speech to the worshipers attending, letting them know that firstly he was not here really to answer questions about the regeneration but to thank those attending for voting for him in the recent Mayoral elections. When calls were made for questions to be answered about the regeneration, those advisors who were with the Mayor kept trying to block the questions, even though the Mayor seemed happy to answer, the advisors who attended with him made it difficult for those wishing to know more. Most felt frustrated at the lack of answers, and were told that they would know more in January.

No invitations were made to the wider community, and the only ones attending were the muslim male worshipers. Although this mosque doesn’t have the facilities for women to attend, muslim women on the estate are upset that the mayor doesn’t seem to want to talk to them. They also have a lot of questions regarding their future on the estate, which they now feel is being taken away from them. I’ve talked to quite a few other residents on the estate of different ethnic and faith backgrounds and all seem extremely upset that a meeting was called on their estate with the mayor and they were not invited.

All I spoke to yesterday were completly unaware that tonights meeting of the Cabinet at 5:30pm, that on Agenda item 6.2 Blackwall Reach Regeneration Procurement and Scheme Development that Aman Dalvi was going to call for Compulsory Purchase Powers to be allowed for those members of the estate who dont want to move, or fail to accept the price offered for their homes. That they were going to talk about the partner who had been selected for the estate, calling for power to put in planning permission for the estate. Residents were upset to learn that this was all going to go ahead this evening, without informing or consulting the residents, that all of the residents on the estate were unaware of these plans this evening. In fact they tell me that there have been boycotts of the process occuring on the estate as they feel that their views are not being listened to. The original members of the consultation group who have been involved for over 3 years, feel frustrated at the lack of involvement or real consultation and have callled for Independent Tenants Advisors to be brought on board to help residents engage on a more informed basis. The council has done its upmost to block these requests and has now picked new residents to get involved who are new to the 3 year process and have made them swear to secrecy by signing a confidentiallity agreement.

Now although this has been cancelled just today, why did the mayor or Aman Dalvi for that matter fail to tell those residents present at the meeting on Monday night what was going to occur tonight at full Cabinet?


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